R&R ON SANIBEL ISLAND

Can I please direct your mind back to February?  Remember dark, cold days?  Sorry, but I’m a little behind in blogging and I’m just now getting caught up.

I acquired a severe bronchitis in late January.  I didn’t feel like doing anything, and dining on antibiotics and Robitussin certainly didn’t help.  I certainly lacked the will to pack and schlep sixty pounds of cameras and clothes or to hurtle my body through space for our annual Sanibel visit.  My Doctor, however, said I should go, and my daughter, Sigrid, offered to pack my bag.  What could  I do?

Well, it was worth it.  This guy welcomed us back.

 

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The next morning we found the beach already crowded.

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Well, now, what shall we do today?  First, breakfast on the porch, nodding hello to fellow guests as they strolled to and from the beach.  Then, some reading and where shall we go for lunch?  Depending on the tide, a daily ride on the wildlife drive around the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, a favorite spot.  Then it’s time for more reading and a nap.  Other after-lunch trips would be to favorite shops to discover what we didn’t need but liked.

We enjoyed a guest for a couple of nights, Clair W., a friend from home who was exploring Florida for the future.  On another day there was an annual lunch with our friend, Allyson M., from Beach Haven who winters on the island.  Lunch this year was around the Oasis Pool Bar at the Tween Waters Inn, a pleasure.  It was accompanied by a Pirate’s Treasure, fruit juice with something added, and you can see how all of this facilitated my recovery.

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Our daily trips through Ding Darling were not as productive as in past years but still a delight.  Hope springs etc. for the perfect grouping of Roseate Spoonbills but we didn’t see ANY this year.  Here’s a typical daily scene.  The crowding happens as the tide returns.  I have no idea what the two on the left had done to warrant their isolation, nor were they close enough to ask.  For  a full size version of this, click here.

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More reading, more napping.  Hey, how about a walk on the beach?  There we found this group of Ibises, marching into the sun.  (Colleagues: side lighting = more contrast.)  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology tells us they’re also seen in Cardinal Red; that would be exciting.  The opening image above is of a juvenile version still in browns.  Down at Forsythe we’ll see them shiny like an oil slick, and referred to as Iridescent or Glossy.

They were followed by the Wandering Willets.

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New to me this year were these Sandwich Terns, so named after the town of Sandwich in County Kent England where they were first discovered.  They’re smaller than their Royal Tern cousins and possess the yellow-tipped, black beak compared to their cousins’ stark, orange beak.   It  is said that they’re rare in Florida, seen after storms and in migration.

 

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Next, if it was Sunday, it was off to the outdoor jazz concert presented by a group of retired musicians: electronic guitars, a clarinet, a keyboard and an accordion, couple of different saxes, a set of traps and a couple of horns.  An informal but skilled group playing old music for old people.  Then back to the porch for some late afternoon reading interrupted by the tap-tapping of this woodpecker.  We’re told that the holes they create will eventually kill the tree.  Meanwhile its colors were great.

 

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Well, we killed another day.  Time to gather to salute the sunset.  Our go-to place, Beachview Cottages, is a collection of twenty-two, old-Florida cottages, spread on either side of a palm-lined drive from West Gulf Drive to the beach.  One of the cottages can be seen (red) at left.  “New” Florida in contrast can be seen looming behind us.  At the beach is this pavilion.  Many of the guests are also returnees and it’s a friendly group.  We all gather here at the end of the day to savor the day and the sunset.That’s Barbara on her phone at the left, ordering up some more ice.  😉

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Sunsets?  Oh, yeah.  It was on its way when I “saw” this scene which stole my heart.  We know there’s a sunset off to the right but this is a softer capture and much more of a statement about life on Sanibel Island.

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Finally, the real thing, further enhanced with some Sanderlings and sun-reflecting wavelets and beach.  Can you wonder why I reserved for next year before we even left?

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WINTER WHITE STUFF (THE FLORIDA KIND)

We managed to escape on the last flight out of Philadelphia before winter storm Jonas (OK, maybe not literally the last but it felt that way).  Even with the last minute struggle to change our flight to Friday night and to make sure there was a car and a room in Sanibel, we were still apprehensive.  Indeed, after taxiing out to the runway the pilot announced a further delay in order to DE-ICE THE WINGS.  How comforting was that??  I was convinced he would abort but we made it and slipped in to our cottage about 1:00 in the morning.  Our first view of the beach the next morning (while Jonas was howling at home) …. WHITE STUFF …  but, a very comfortable kind.

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Yet more white stuff is seen here.  Sanibel Island is known for being a shelling paradise.  For some reason the shape and position of the island in the currents of the Gulf of Mexico result in extraordinary deposits of shells with each high tide.

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It’s something to do every day.  The fanatics are on the beach before sunrise with headlamps, searching for the elusive and therefore prized Junonia.  It’s so rare, finders wind up with their pictures in the paper.  Aside from the Junonia, however, we enjoyed our beach walks and inevitably came home with shells that caught our eye.  The above sight is typical.  The image is now a part of my place mat collection.

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Another exciting activity is photographing the sea birds that meet daily on the beach.  Aside from the routine gulls we also enjoyed Willets, Ruddy Turnstones, skittering Sanderlings, and clusters of Royal Terns having bad hair days.  The terns are tolerant of walking humans ( dogs, another story) and gather in groups at sometimes the same spots along the beach each morning.  I’ve enjoyed photographing them over my fourteen years of occasional visits.  I posted recently about the need to get prone to capture some scenes and the terns are certainly in that category.

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I particularly love this image below.  He seemed to be zoned out in the joy of the morning sunlight and breeze.  I heard him murmuring, “Hey, Dude, is this cool or whaaat?”  I absolutely agreed.

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The tern was chillin’ in the sunrise along with others also drawn to dawn.  Most of us react to the drama of sunrises and sunsets and though I’ve seen and photographed lots of them I’m not immune to the next one.  Here’s one morning in which the sun was filtered more than usual but there was still light for the early morning shell seekers.

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And at the other end of the day, the sun’s farewell.

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Not every day was warm or clear or sunny, but at its worst it was better than being up home in February.  Even a foggy morning calls a photographer.

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Another major attraction of Sanibel is the 5200 acre “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.  We managed to drive through on the eight mile Wildlife Trail almost every day.  It’s best to do so slightly before and after low tide as the bird life is then feasting on creatures from the exposed sand flats.  One sees a great deal of White Pelicans, Ibis, Herons, Willets, and Cormorants.  In fact they report over 200 species of birds.  Here are some selected captures.

Wilbur and Wilma Willet

Wilbur and Wilma Willet

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Doc, I have this really bad neck pain.

Doc, I have this really bad neck pain.

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This one made me literally laugh out loud.  They tolerate humans being close and I was about six feet away from his bath.

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Finally, an after-breakfast Cormorant Cleanup.

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This was a nice experience for us, and certainly warmer and sunnier than February at home.  We thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed and informal atmosphere at Beachview Cottages on Sanibel Island.  As always, glad to be home but also wondering why??

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There is a gallery of additional images from the two weeks.  To view it please click here.

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FLORIDA … IT’S FOR DA BOIDS

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Feeling cold and crotchety in mid-February I decided I should take the cure in Florida.  My friend was amenable so off we went, first to her family condo at Delray Beach.  The sun was shining and it was warm and we enjoyed a pleasant few days there.  We justified the cocktail hours with a little work, redoing a stepping stone path from the lanaii to the lawn with its sunset bench by the lake.

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One of the highlights of the area is the Wakodahatchee Wetlands.  This excellent project of Palm Beach County’s Utilities Department is a fifty acre meadow traversed by three quarters of a mile of boardwalks through and around marshes and ponds and thickets of nesting and resting bird life.  We visited it last year (see Wakodahatchee Wetlands) and it was great even without my long lens.  This year I brought the lens (100-400mm) and I was pleased with the results.

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There is the usual array of Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, and Anhingas.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

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Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Anhinga

Anhinga

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A fun capture for me was this Red-winged Blackbird.  I’ve heard them in the fragmites and other shore foliage all my life, and watched them flit between hiding places, never pausing long enough to be captured.  This one did, and I was pleased to find the splashes of yellow under the red.

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From Delray Beach we headed across Alligator Alley to another favorite place…Sanibel Island.  After a few days on the beach there I began to think that maybe I could get into this Florida-in-February thing.  It is a quiet, laid back life pretty much focusing, for us, on the beach, the wildlife refuge, the competitive shelling, and looking for the green flash.  The opening scene above was taken early in the morning on our adjacent beach.  Here’s another scene illustrating what’s referred to as the “Sanibel Stoop.”

The Sanibel Stoop

The Sanibel Stoop

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As the above scene and the one below suggest, the weather wasn’t splendid every day but it didn’t get in our way.  One morning started this way but eventually cleared enough for a float-boat ride with a naturalist through the mangrove thickets of Tarpon Bay.

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We also went through the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge three times including once with a guide which was worthwhile.  And, we toured the excellent educational visitor’s center.  On the refuge trail I managed to capture something new for me: juvenile ibises, long legged, long billed wading birds. 

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On our last day on our way off the island we took one final swing through the refuge.  I was thrilled to capture this Yellow Crowned Night Heron.  They don’t come easy; they’re named Night Heron for a reason.  This one, however, was locked in on something, never flinching as I got close enough for the capture.  The feather detail and colors are beautiful and the yellow stripe and its head spike-feathers are high-five sporty.——————————————————————————————–

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Waiting for the green flash.  An evening ritual.

Waiting for the green flash. An evening ritual.

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For more scenes from the trip please click here.

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A WINTER VISIT TO SANIBEL ISLAND

I’ve just returned from a few very pleasant days on Sanibel Island, in the high 70’s during the day and chilly at night and early morning requiring layers. I also lucked out in that there was no rain. I stayed in a beach cottage along West Gulf Drive, about midway between the east end stores and restaurants, and the Ding Darling Wild Life Refuge. A short stroll past some of the cottages took me to a beach pavilion where I could salute the sunset.
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My primary objective for the trip was the J. Norwood “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge. This is an outstanding facility comprised of over 6000 acres and named for Darling.   He was a Pulitzer prize winning editorial cartoonist of national renown who was also an ardent conservationist. In 1934 he was named as the first head of the forerunner of the Fish & Wildlife Service. Subsequently he designed the blue goose logo of the federal refuge system, and initiated the federal duck stamp program and designed the first duck stamp.
There is an excellent visitor’s center which houses many well done educational exhibits. Then, there is a four mile two lane, one-way trail through the Refuge, passing the shoal ponds and small bays
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and the mangrove-swamp-edged canals which allow for tidal exchanges with the interior ponds and bays.   The mangrove swamps, themselves, are a home for Refuge denizens.
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The herons, egrets, spoonbills and ibis stroll across the tidal flats and shoals to feed; the pelicans, cormorants, and anhingas will surf and dive the only somewhat deeper waters of the ponds.
The drive is open daily (closed Friday) from 7:30 to sunset. Early morning and low tide is a good combination to see the birds feeding. I went through two to three times a day and almost always captured a worthwhile image.
Nineteen images from my trip are in the Places Galleries of my web site. Click here to jump to the galleries.